Young and restless

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Young and restless

Every society in every era hungers for bold and wise youth. A young leader with such qualities is as refreshing and eye-opening as a morning shower. America’s first black president, Barack Obama, is a perfect example. The relatively unknown African-American first came to the attention of the public at the Democratic Party convention in 2004. He risked his political life, and would go on to change the course of American history, in a 17-minute opening speech.

The Harvard Law School graduate prepared well. He was running for the U.S Senate at the time. It was a bold speech, yet at the same time simple, radical and genuine. He talked about America’s need of reform and unity and set out a vision of the country’s future. Time magazine said it was one of the best speeches in the history of political conventions. Four years later, the senator became the country’s first black president. The Democratic Party’s experiment with a young and bold candidate was a success.

Park Geun-hye, who is considered the conservatives’ most promising presidential candidate and who is now trying to reform the ruling Grand National Party, also experimented with the young and bold. She included Lee Joon-seok in her emergency reform council. He is a 27-year-old Harvard graduate specializing in software technology. It is an experiment that goes beyond the GNP and should influence all of mainstream politics. People are watching the young man with great curiosity. His appearance, career record and comments all make news. He enjoys as intent interest in Korea as the young politician who made the opening address at the convention in 2004. But Korea’s experiment with its promising youth doesn’t seem so successful.

Lee has been controversial from the start. The ruling party’s emergency council members are highly public figures who must exercise prudence and discretion in both speech and action. Before making comment, they must consider the consequences beforehand. Obama was an editor at Harvard Law School and served as a lawyer, community organizer and senator. At 43, he should have been confident in his knowledge and experience. Yet he was self-aware and discreet. He rarely blabbered about issues about which he wasn’t fully knowledgeable.

Lee, the not-yet-30 entrepreneur, has only begun his career. He studied technology at school and is obviously less knowledgeable about politics, history, ideological philosophies and social studies. Yet he is free with his speech. He talks as if he is a senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office. Worse, he doesn’t seem to know what he is talking about or the repercussions of his comments. He acts as if he’s a celebrity and is eager to talk on TV, the radio and to newspaper reporters in a frenzy of sudden stardom. He seems not to realize why the ruling party’s executive members have been mocked as comedians.

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